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New Delhi: The finance ministry on Friday announced that customs duty will be waived off on key diagnostic kits and reagents for six months to reduce the cost of covid-19 testing during the pandemic.

The central government said import duty on certain inflammatory diagnostic (marker) kits and blood gas reagents was exempted till 31 October. This was to ensure that materials were available for testing various conditions, including tissue damage, bacterial infection and blood clots, in covid patients.

Earlier this month, the ministry had exempted customs duty on covid vaccines, oxygen and related gear and oxygen transportation equipment temporarily to help reduce the cost and increase supplies. The demand for medical supplies, testing kits and oxygen has skyrocketed with India facing a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections. More than 200,000 covid-related deaths have been reported since the outbreak.

Earlier in the day, the Union council of ministers reviewed the situation and described the pandemic as a “once in a century crisis" which has thrown a big challenge to the world. The second wave has raised doubts over India’s economic recovery following a 7.7% contraction in FY21. In the budget for FY22, the Centre has raised its healthcare spending and capital expenditure as part of its efforts to save lives and to fast track economic recovery by building infrastructure.

The Narendra Modi administration is focusing on managing the massive health crisis and is closely monitoring to revive the covid-hit economy. The Centre has made it clear that lockdown will be the last resort given the need for protecting livelihoods. However, many states had to impose restrictions and curfews to break the chain of infections.

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